Michigan football: New O-line coach likes the progress he's seen through 3 games
Michigan’s running backs are burning up the field each Saturday, scoring touchdowns and annihilating opposing defenses. Michigan’s QBs have remained clean, upright and unharmed — UM has only given up 1 sack throughout the first 3 weeks of the season.
Credit the O-line for that.
Wolverines RB Blake Corum is 3rd in the nation in rushing yards per game (135.7) and 6th in yards from scrimmage (151.0), and he owes his offensive linemen some major props for the way they’ve cleared his path to success. Moreover, Michigan has the best rushing offense in the country at 350.3 yards per game.
Michigan wouldn’t be in its current position if a few things hadn’t aligned and developed. Now 3-0 and ranked No. 19, the Wolverines look like a Big Ten contender.
“First thing that I told them was that, for us to be successful as a team, it starts with us,” said Sherrone Moore, who assumed control of OL/co-OC duties this year after coaching TEs 2018-2020. “We’ve got to run the team in every aspect, in every shape and form. Every good team that I’ve been around, it’s the offensive line that controls the team.”
It’s been a necessity since the game’s beginning. Without a solid, dependable line, success tends to be difficult.
Talent level hasn’t been an issue at Michigan during the past couple of seasons. However, Moore says the current group remains a work in progress.
During his media availability on Wednesday, Moore was asked if he felt that his O-line has done a good job of assuming control of the team.
“We’re in the right progression to be there,” he said. “We’re only 3 games in, so we’ll see at the end of the year where we’re at.”
Now that the Wolverines have something in the trenches, they are steps closer to becoming a complete team.
With Ryan Hayes, a senior, UM has a solid left tackle who’s helped limit pressure on the quarterbacks. Incredibly athletic, he was actually a tight end while at Traverse City West High School. Once he arrived in Ann Arbor, he began packing on 20 pounds and found himself as a key piece to the Wolverines’ OL entering the 2020 season.
The 6-foot-7, 271-pound veteran could see action on Sundays if he continues to progress.
According to Walter Football, Zak Zinter is among the best interior linemen in the nation. The NFL Draft ranking/projection site tabbed the 6-6, 330-pound sophomore as the No. 9-ranked G/OT for the 2023 draft.
The site also sees Andrew Stueber as the No. 25-ranked C/G available in the 2022 draft.
Andrew Vastardis, a senior, is a captain — and he mans the middle of the line, an important position and equivalent to the QB in the trenches.
Trevor Keegan, a junior, has proven capable in his new role as the every-game left guard. So far, he’s been an effective QB protector and gap-opener for the running backs.
This year’s collection may not mirror past Harbaugh-era O-lines that had stars such as Mason Cole (C/LT), Kyle Kalis (RG), Erik Magnusson (RT), Cesar Ruiz (C), Grant Newsome (LT) or a handful of others who elevated the Wolverines’ OL in 2016-2017 and into 2018.
At one time, just a few years ago, UM had one of the better offensive lines in the Big Ten. Maybe it does again, although it’s probably too early to tell.
Putting up a season-high 606 yards counts for something, though, even against Northern Illinois. Without the bigs on the front line, the offensive success wouldn’t be possible.
Like Moore said, all good teams have controlling O-linemen, and, so far, Michigan’s current guys seem up to the task of keeping Corum and the entire offense rolling. The games will get tougher, of course, so hopefully, for UM fans, Moore and his charges are just getting warmed up.